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A bold plan by a ‘metarchitect’ to map the world cloaks a much more sinister agenda

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Ian Martin: imagining life beyond the colon

MONDAY. Redesign the eurozone, giving it a dark ‘old-fangled’ look, with Gothic tracery and an enveloping mist.

TUESDAY. Bad news. My smart housing scheme for Blingnang has been cancelled. It doesn’t make any sense – how can a construction boom simply STOP?

Shame. I’d proposed bio-sensors for all the rooms, allowing occupants to tell with one tap on an app if they were at home or not.

WEDNESDAY. Design something on a tricky corner site. It’s to be called ‘Vector 6’ for maximum flexibility as the client’s not sure yet what it’s for. Fine with me.My motto these days is ‘Long life, loose fit, vague project title’.

THURSDAY. Pub lunch with my old mate Tub Hagendaas, the metarchitect’s metarchitect. Tub really is in a class of his own: he’s the only one who understands what a metarchitect is. And this is his power.

Tub’s on a world tour at the moment. Each country he visits is required to host a massive retrospective of his work while he potters around in the countryside, gathering data for a new project called ‘One One’. This will involve the creation of an ambitious 1:1 scale map.

He stares mournfully at the remains of his pub lunch – that is, practically all of it, as he’s on a strict garnish-only diet at the moment. ‘This map will be a map of all the countrysides in the world. When completed, it can be briefly overlayed onto the real thing…’ Here he gives me one of his withering stares to signal that of course he’s not that stupid. ‘…very briefly I mean, we do not want to see the stifling of the crops or the suffocation of the livestocks or the peoples of the Earth.

‘This map, OK, this unsolicited skin or membrane, is then slowly raised into the air by sky cranes, the various peoples of the countrysides of the Earth perhaps cheering, throwing their hats into the air, I don’t of course wish to be prescriptive. Rather, I wish to be postscriptive. The map or skin or membrane – manufactured from polymolecules which have been teased out by through a nano-carding process to produce something quite unprecedented…’

He stops for a moment. Imperiously holds up a hand to prevent further interruption. Retrieves a small recording device from a pocket and speaks into it. ‘Reminder. Check with lab for any progress at all on polymolecular carding.’ He replaces the device, remembers something and pulls it out again. ‘Elsa. Please find out if my silver jumpsuit is ready for collection from the dry cleaner’s. Thank you.’

I take the opportunity to slip off to the bar to get another round in. When I return Tub is engaging a weary-looking member of staff in conversation about his lunch. ‘I’m sorry you didn’t want your lunch in the end but I just need to clear the plates away…’ ‘Is this not symptomatic of a society ill at ease with its own detritus, its own waste and filth, its…yes, very well. Hurry up please.’

A young intern has materialised to take a Polaroid picture of Tub. As part of his rigorously documented life – he is a most fascinating subject – he insists on being photographed every 15 minutes. ‘This is absolutely nothing creepy at all. The Polaroid interns are on a rota, it is not as if I keep one special intern at my house or hotel to take photographs of me every quarter-hour. And what really is so weird about a person asleep or defecating or masturbating or whatever? Are we to sweep these things under the polymolecular carding? No, we are not!’

The table-clearing accelerates sharply and the Polaroid intern disappears. I tell him that I totally get the nano-science and the giant map and all that, but why is the project called ‘One One’? If it’s a 1:1 scale map, what on earth has happened to the colon?

‘Ah, this is the heart of the matter, you are correct’. He leans in and lowers his voice. ‘The colon is dead’.

FRIDAY. Still in shock, frankly. Unpunctuated Epic Space: Imagination Beyond The Colon. No, it’s unthinkable.

SATURDAY. In Denial: A Continuing Struggle With The Absent Colon: Further Thoughts On Architecture’s Cantilevered Language Of Deferred Articulation.

SUNDAY. Media review in the recliner. Tub all over the papers with his call for ‘colon cleansing’. Ugh.

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